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First Listen: Andrea Echeverri, 'Ruiseñora'

Andrea Echeverri's new album, <em>Ruiseñor</em><em>a</em>, comes out August 20.
Andrea Echeverri's new album, <em>Ruiseñor</em><em>a</em>, comes out August 20.

It's possible to chart the development of Latin Alternative music by following the career of Andrea Echeverri.

In 1992, Echeverri and Hector Buitrago formed Aterciopelados in Bogota, Colombia, during a time of great innovation in rock en Español. Bands from all over Latin America were experimenting with indigenous musical styles and new genres. As the first band from Colombia to attract international attention for its mix of musical styles and political lyrics, Aterciopelados was a pioneer — and Echeverri emerged as a reflective songwriter with a powerful stage presence.

As Latin Alternative music grew in stature and diversity of sound, young bands — and particularly young women — often cited Echeverri as an inspiration and role model. She continued to push the genre's boundaries with Aterciopelados in the 2000s, turning inward to explore personal and political themes of motherhood, love and the environment while also challenging the old boys' club of rock en Español.

As a solo artist on Ruiseñora, out August 20, Echeverri continues to explore issues big and small. The album is a stripped-down affair, with acoustic guitar dominating the spirit and tone of its heartfelt songs. Now nearing 50, Echeverri has found her perspective shifting, but her lyrics remain wise, whimsical, thought-provoking and fun.

It's always fascinating to watch our favorite musicians meet the challenge of staying fresh and relevant as the years and albums add up. The world of Latin Alternative music ought to keep following Echeverri's lead for years to come.

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Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.